Strawberry Pretzel Salad

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Our favorite Strawberry Pretzel Salad comes complete with a buttery pretzel crust, creamy cheesecake-esque filling, and a strawberry-packed gelatin topping.

Love this dessert salad? It’s one of our favorites! We’ve created a similar Raspberry Jello Dessert with a graham cracker crust and raspberries to try next time!

A square of Strawberry Pretzel Salad

Strawberry Pretzel Salad Recipe

I was raised with desserts passed off as salad, and this Strawberry Pretzel Salad is the cream of the crop!

These “salads” (which are actually desserts) pop up all over at potlucks, parties, funerals — you name it! In Utah, no holiday or summer party is complete without some variation on this recipe. And yes, it’s served alongside Funeral Potatoes, a Crockpot Roast, Dinner Rolls, and Roasted Green Beans– not with the desserts.

No wonder they’re so popular — desserts with dinner and then another dessert after that!

Process shots-- crushing the pretzels for the crust

How To Make Strawberry Pretzel Salad

This salad starts with a thick and buttery pretzel crust which is loaded up with a sweet, creamy cheesecake-like filling. Fresh strawberries get mixed with strawberry gelatin, which is then added on top. Once the salad is thoroughly chilled, the salad can be cut into bars for serving.

Below I’ll break down each of the components of this salad, starting with the pretzel crust.

Process shots of strawberry pretzel salad-- making and baking the crust; whipping the cream cheese

Pretzel Crust

Strawberry Pretzel Salad is famous for its crust. It’s sweet, salty, and ridiculously buttery! These tips below will help to ensure a perfect crust every single time!

  • Let the melted butter cool. Once the butter is melted, it needs to cool back to room temperature. If the butter is hot, it will melt the sugar and pretzels, which will cause a greasy crust. 
  • Crush the pretzels. There is a fine line here — we don’t want the pretzels to be fine crumbs, but we don’t want large pieces that make it difficult to cut and serve these bars. To ensure the correct texture, add pretzels to a large plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. If you blend pretzels, the crumbs will be too fine. If there are any large chunks of pretzels, return to the bag and crush again.
  • Measure the crumbs. Since there are so many different brands and varieties of pretzels, there can be a good amount of variation in measuring out full pretzels. It’s best to measure the crumbs after the pretzels are crushed to be sure you have a full two cups of crumbs.

QUICK TIP

If you’d prefer to make a Strawberry Pretzel Salad with graham cracker crust, swap out the pretzels for a Graham Cracker Crust! Combine 1-1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons graham cracker crumbs (12 full sheets) with 1/2 cup melted butter, and 3 tablespoons white granulated sugar. Press this mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan (no need to go up the sides, just the base). Use the bottom of a flat 1-cup measuring cup to thoroughly compress the graham cracker crumbs into a firm crust. Bake for 8-10 minutes.

Process shots-- adding the vanilla, sugar, and whipped topping to a bowl and mixing until smooth

Cheesecake Filling

Although it is tempting to try and make a healthier Strawberry Pretzel Salad, this recipe simply does not work well with low-fat products (particularly lower fat cream cheese or whipped topping). Lower fat products won’t thicken up or set properly–which can cause a watery filling that allows the Jello* to seep through and cause the pretzel crust to become soggy. We need all the firmness in this layer!

*Jello is the trademarked name of a flavored gelatin dessert mix, and refers to any brand of gelatin mix product.

  • Cream cheese: For best results, use full-fat brick-style cream cheese. I also recommend a good quality brand; We love Philadelphia Cream Cheese® best.
  • Whipped topping: Be sure the whipped topping is fully thawed so it can fold in nicely with the other ingredients. If you’d like to make Strawberry Pretzel Salad with whipped cream, replace the Cool Whip® with 2 cups of whipped heavy cream.
  • Sugar: This ensures a sweet filling reminiscent of cheesecake. We think the amount of sugar is perfect, but if you’d prefer a tarter filling, reduce the sugar a touch.
  • Vanilla: This adds a nice complexity and “finishing touch” to this layer.

QUICK TIP

To soften cream cheese: Place the completely unwrapped package of cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 10-15 seconds, check, flip to the other side then microwave for an additional 10-15 seconds as needed. You don’t want it at all melted, just softened to room temperature.

Process shots of Strawberry Pretzel Salad-- adding the whipped cream layer to the crust; seal the edges; brisky whisk the boiling water into the gelatin

Strawberry Jello Topping

The last layer of this Strawberry Pretzel Salad has only three ingredients: 

  • Strawberry Jello: Watch the size of the gelatin box to ensure you use the right size — we’re looking for the big box (a full 6 ounces). Avoid lower-sugar alternatives here.
  • Boiling water
  • Fresh strawberries: We don’t recommend frozen strawberries in this recipe — we’re didn’t love the texture/flavor as much. (Here are some great tips on purchasing and storing fresh strawberries.)

QUICK TIP

Watch package sizing closely to ensure you have the right sizes of gelatin mix, cream cheese, and whipped topping — these products all come in various sizes!

Process shots-- combining strawberries with the gelatin; adding to the top of the salad.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad Recipe Tips

  • Don’t add hot Jello to the cream cheese layer. If the gelatin mixture is still hot, it will break up the cream cheese layer. Wait for it to cool to room temperature before adding on top.
  • Briskly whisk the Jello. Once the boiling water gets added to the gelatin, work quickly to whisk the two together to avoid settling gelatin.
  • Use a very sharp knife to make clean cuts when serving this dessert. If you’re having a hard time cutting it, run the knife under hot water, dry it, and make a cut. Repeat this process for every cut made.
  • Leave yourself ample time to make these bars. While each layer of these bars are simple, this recipe takes a good amount of time in between waiting for the crust to cool down, the cream cheese layer to chill, and the gelatin to set up. 

Strawberry Pretzel Salad on a plate with a bite taken out of it

STORAGE

Can You Make Strawberry Pretzel Salad The Night Before?

Yes, you can, but it’s best the same day it’s made. 

I recommend making the crust and cream cheese layer the night before then adding the Jell-O topping the next day.

Strawberry pretzel salad bars last about 1-2 days after making. Beyond that, the bars begin to get watery/seep out liquid and the crust will soften considerably.

Can You Freeze Strawberry Pretzel Salad?

These Strawberry Pretzel Salad bars do not freeze and thaw well. The crust becomes overly soft and begins to disintegrate. The cream cheese and gelatin layers both become watery and will change consistency.

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Strawberry Pretzel Salad

5 from 1 vote
Our favorite Strawberry Pretzel Salad comes complete with a buttery pretzel crust, creamy cheesecake-esque filling, and a strawberry-packed gelatin topping.
Print Recipe

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

5 from 1 vote
Our favorite Strawberry Pretzel Salad comes complete with a buttery pretzel crust, creamy cheesecake-esque filling, and a strawberry-packed gelatin topping.
Course Dessert, Salad
Cuisine American, Vegetarian
Keyword strawberry pretzel salad, strawberry pretzel salad recipe
Prep Time 35 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Chilling Time 8 hours
Total Time 8 hours 45 minutes
Servings 40 servings
Calories 120kcal
Cost $9.46

Ingredients

Pretzel Crust

  • 2 full cups (160g) crushed pretzels (~3-1/2 cups full pretzels)
  • 3/4 cup (12 tbsp; 170g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons (45g) granulated white sugar

Cheesecake Layer

  • 1 pkg (8 oz.; 226g) cream cheese, full-fat brick-style, softened to room temperature (Note 1)
  • 1 cup (200g) granulated white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 container (8 oz.; 226g ) whipped topping thawed, full-fat (such as Cool Whip) (Note 2)

Strawberry Jell-o Layer

  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 pkg (6 oz.; 170g) strawberry gelatin such as Jell-o
  • 2 cups fresh sliced strawberries (Note 3)

Instructions

  • PREP: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add pretzels to a large plastic bag. Seal without air in it and crush pretzels using a rolling pin. Crush to coarse crumbs; we don't want the crumbs too fine. Measure to be sure you have 2 full cups (160g) of pretzel crumbs. Melt butter then set aside to cool to room temperature (don't add hot butter; it will make the crust greasy).
  • PRETZEL CRUST: In a large bowl, mix together the crushed pretzels, melted butter, and sugar until combined. Press this mixture firmly into the bottom of the prepared pan (no need to go up the sides, just the base). Use the bottom of a flat 1-cup measuring cup to press down crumbs into a firm crust. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Remove and let fully cool before adding the filling.
  • FILLING: Meanwhile, beat the softened cream cheese in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add in the sugar and vanilla extract and beat until combined, 1 more minute. Use a spatula to gently fold in the completely thawed whipped topping into the mixture until no streaks remain.
  • FILLING CONTINUED: Spread this mixture onto the completely cooled pretzel crust. Smooth it evenly so that none of the crust is exposed (otherwise the Jell-O will seep through). Take your time to really seal the edges here with the filling. Chill for one hour.
  • JELL-O TOPPING: Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add the gelatin to a large bowl and pour the boiling water on top. Mix well. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, thinly slice the strawberries. Remove the gelatin from the fridge and gently stir in strawberries. Make sure the gelatin mixture is at room temperature, not hot. If it is still hot, chill for another 5-10 minutes. Hot Jell-O is going to break up the cream cheese layer! Once at room temperature, use a slotted spoon to gently transfer strawberries atop the cream cheese layer in an even layer. Then gently pour the gelatin over the strawberries in one even layer.
  • CHILL: Cover the pan tightly and refrigerate until completely set, about 2-4 hours. Once fully chilled, use a very sharp and hot knife (run under hot water then dry) to make cuts. The first couple of bars don't come out super well, but after that, it gets a lot easier! Be sure to cut all the way through the pretzel crust before removing bars.
  • STORAGE: These bars are best within 1-2 days of making. After that the bars begin to get watery/seep out liquid. These bars do not freeze and thaw well.

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Cream cheese: For best results, use full-fat brick-style cream cheese(reduced-fat cream cheese doesn’t taste as rich and isn’t as thick). I also recommend a good quality brand; We love Philadelphia Cream Cheese® best.
  • To soften cream cheese: Place the completely unwrapped package of cream cheese in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on HIGH for 10-15 seconds, check, flip to the other side then microwave for an additional 10-15 seconds as needed. You don't want it at all melted, just softened to room temperature.
Note 2: Whipped topping: This is not a dessert that works well with lower fat products. Stick to the original full-fat whipped topping and cream cheese to avoid a watery filling or filling that doesn't set up properly. We need the fat for firmness in this layer!
Note 3: Strawberries: We tested this recipe with frozen sliced and fresh sliced strawberries and much preferred fresh ripe strawberries! Use small strawberries if possible, and slice them very thinly. If you're set on using frozen berries, add them to the gelatin and don't chill in the fridge, just stir for 2-3 minutes, and then gently spoon on top of cream cheese layer.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 120kcal | Carbohydrates: 15.3g | Protein: 1.3g | Fat: 6.3g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 91.9mg | Fiber: 0.3g | Sugar: 11.6g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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